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THIS is in MY wheelhouse!

…[I have] been elected by the city council a trustee for the public schools to be established at Washington & by the trustees to preside at their board … sincerely believing that knolege promotes the happiness of man, I shall ever be disposed to contribute my endeavors towards it’s extension, and in the instance under consideration will willingly undertake the duties proposed to me, so far as others of paramount obligation [i.e. President of the U.S.] will permit my attention to them.
Thomas Jefferson to Robert Brent, August 14, 1805

In March, 2020, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, I interrupted my review of Jefferson’s presidential correspondence, to focus on his writings about the yellow fever from 1793 on. That project is now complete, and I return to 1805.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders always promote an educated constituency.
The President declined most appointments, but gladly accepted this one, to preside over the Board of Education for public schools in Washington City. Not only was an educated citizenry essential for the protection of the new republic, education promoted happiness in people. By that standard, Jefferson was the happiest of all men!

Mr. Jefferson seeks to promote the education (and happiness!) of your audience!
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I keep pitching my “green new deal.”

I really wish effect to the hints in my letter to you for so laying off the additions to the city of N.O. as to shield it from Yellow fever. my confidence in the idea is founded in the acknoleged experience that we have never seen the genuine Yellow fever extend itself into the country, nor even to the outskirts or open parts of a close built city. in the plan I propose every square would be surrounded, on every side, by open & pure air, & would in fact be a separate town with fields, or open suburbs around it.
Thomas Jefferson to William C. C. Claiborne, May 3, 1810

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders continue to cheerlead from the sidelines.
Claiborne (c. 1773/75 – 1817), a Virginia born lawyer transplanted to Tennessee, served in Congress from 1797 to 1801. In 1803, he was appointed by Jefferson to be governor of the Territory of Orleans, a position he held until 1812.

Jefferson, now finally (and gratefully!) retired from public office, continued to lobby for more green space in New Orlean’s development, to combat the diseases which afflicted densely populated areas. Multiple earlier letters in this series detailed his “checkerboard” plan for urban design.

Claiborne succeeded Andrew Jackson as Tennessee’s Congressman. He was the youngest person ever elected to that body, and most sources indicate he was not yet 25 years of age, as required by the Constitution.

Mr. Jefferson will continue to promote his causes to your audience.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Any money must come from Pennsylvania, not the U.S.

Dr. Deveze, who is the subject of your letter of Mar. 3. had I believe great merit in the services he rendered in Philadelphia on the first visitation of the Yellow fever in 93. the courage with which he exposed himself to it, when it’s novelty frightened away the physicians & inhabitants of the place, marked a mind of superior benevolence … with respect to Dr. Deveze’s request of some acknolegement for his services … his application can of course be recieved by the government of Pensylvania … I hope Dr. Deveze will see … my personal sentiments & esteem I render him the justice he merits.
Thomas Jefferson to Pierre August Adet, June 29, 1806

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, brave leadership goes unrewarded.
Dr. Deveze, a French refugee from Haiti, volunteered to serve in Bush Hill hospital during Philadelphia’s 1793 deadly yellow fever epidemic. His treatment, considerably gentler than other physicians’ (especially that of the city’s famed Dr. Benjamin Rush), resulted in a favorable recovery rate.

Jefferson noted that Deveze was among the first to recognize that yellow fever was not contagious. He also believed the “superior benevolence” of Deveze 13 years earlier merited reward. Adet now sought that reward for Deveze from the national government. The President declined, citing constitutional limitations, and directed Deveze’s case to the state where his services were rendered.

Although he could not authorize compensation from Washington, he asked Adet to convey his “personal sentiments & esteem.”

Read this excerpt from Deveze’s memoir for a detailed and sometimes grisly account of 15 case studies from the 1793 epidemic.

Mr. Jefferson will spare your audience the grisly details. Unless they ask …
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Some will always argue with the facts!

altho’ these facts [about the nature of the yellow fever] are now palpable to every unprejudiced observer, yet the disposition in men to schismatize [divide into strongly opposed camps] & dispute, has produced some contradiction to them … among the advantages to be derived from the progress of science, I am happy to observe that chemistry promises a more speedy & effectual mode of disinfecting the air of contagious houses & vessels than the oppressive practice of Quarentine a barbarous continuation of antient ignorance & habit.
Thomas Jefferson to Giovanni Fabbroni, April 30, 1806

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know facts won’t convince some people.
Fabbroni (1752-1822), was an Italian scientist with specialties in agronomy and chemistry. He and Jefferson had been friends and correspondents for 30 years. Jefferson offered what was known about the yellow fever in America, so Fabbroni could compare it with similar illnesses in Italy. Unfortunately, people had a natural inclination to ignore the facts and dispute those who disagreed.

Still believing the cause of the disease to be foul air, the science-minded Jefferson held that chemistry, an attempt to change the environment, would be a more effective cure than quarantine, an attempt to change human behavior.

Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Uncle Sam must stay in his lane.

… your letter of the 9th. announced of a method of curing Yellow fever  …  in the distribution of the powers of government however, made by our general & state constitutions, no other encoragement for useful discoveries has been confided to the general [national] government but that of securing to their authors the exclusive use of them [a patent] for a term of years. all further reward is within the competence of the state-governments alone … those which have suffered under this affliction cannot fail to remunerate with liberality any real discovery for remedying it in future.
Thomas Jefferson to Antonio Garcia Herreros, August 18, 1805

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders know who can and cannot help.
Herreros solicited the President for federal support for his “cure” for yellow fever. Jefferson acknowledged that any cure would be of great value. He explained that the U.S. Constitution gave the national government no authority to promote it beyond the issuance of a patent. Herreros must look to state governments for support.

The President affirmed liberal compensation should be owing anyone with a “real discovery” for curing the fever. Obviously, Herreros possessed no such cure.

Mr. Jefferson offers a real cure for boring meetings.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Is it ethical to experiment on a condemned man?

with respect to the experiment whether Yellow fever can be communicated after the vaccine, which you propose should be tried on some malefactor [criminal], no means of trying that are likely to be within my power. during the term I have been in office, not a single conviction in any capital case has taken place under the laws of the general government. the Governors of the several states would have it most in their power to favor such an experiment.
To Edward Rowse, August 4, 1805

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time. This post is a repeat of August, 22, 2016.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Rowse wrote to Jefferson speculating on the connection between four diseases: cowpox, smallpox, plague and yellow fever. The smallpox vaccine had already proved effective against that disease and the cowpox. There was some speculation that it worked against the plague. Rowse wanted to know if it might also protect against yellow fever.

To that end, Rowse suggested an experiment be conducted on someone already condemned to die and asked Jefferson’s help. The President declined, not on moral grounds, but for lack of a subject. During his Presidency, no one had been convicted of a capital offense under federal law. Those convictions occurred under state laws. He suggested governors might be able to help Rowse with his experiment.

“I am pleased to give Patrick Lee my highest recommendation as a speaker.”
Executive Director, Wyoming School Boards Association
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Do the locals have “herd immunity”?

the shade [of illness] next above it [yellow fever], called the stranger’s fever has been coeval [contemporary] with the settlement of the larger cities in the Southern parts, to wit, Norfolk, Charleston, New Orleans. strangers going to these places in the months of July, August or September, find this fever as mortal as the genuine yellow fever. but it rarely attacks those who have resided in them some time.
From Thomas Jefferson to Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney,  February 8, 1805

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes,  leaders don’t understand what’s happening or why.
Excerpted from a longer, complicated passage in this letter to his French scientist/philosopher friend, the President introduced a malady called “stranger’s fever.” Very much like the yellow fever in its symptoms and mortality, it attacked only newcomers, i.e. strangers, to southern coastal cities. The locals were rarely affected. The yellow fever attacked everyone.

Jefferson didn’t make the claim or explain, but perhaps he was describing a natural “herd immunity” enjoyed by the locals, built up over time.

He went on to propose his disease-thwarting “checkerboard plan” for urban development, described in several earlier posts in this series.

You will need no immunity to enjoy Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom, only an open mind.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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Right idea. Wrong premise.

a vessel going from the infected quarter, and carrying it’s atmosphere in it’s hold into another state, has given the disease to every person who there entered her. these have died in the arms of their family without a single communication of the disease. it is certainly therefore an epidemic, not a contagious disease; and calls on the chemists for some mode of purifying the vessel by a decomposition of it’s atmosphere, if ventilation be found insufficient.
From Thomas Jefferson to Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney,  February 8, 1805

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Empirical evidence leading to a logical conclusion might be wrong.
Jefferson concluded the yellow fever was not contagious but endemic, transmitted not by people but by fouled air generated in certain conditions along the coast. To buttress that position, he wrote that a ship sailing from one diseased area would carry it to another in the fouled air below deck. If ventilation could not be improved, it fell to the scientists (in this case, chemists) to devise a new method “of purifying the vessel.”

The real cause of yellow fever, the mosquito, would remain undetected for another 100 years. It is likely the ships in question carried not diseased air but disease-bearing insects from one port to another.

Your audience is invited to judge the applicability of Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom to the current age.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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You have the yellow fever in France!

The account you give of the yellow fever, is entirely agreeable to what we then knew of it … facts appear to have established that it is originated here by a local atmosphere, which is never generated but in the lower, closer & dirtier parts of our large cities, in the neighborhood of the water: and that, to catch the disease, you must enter the local atmosphere. persons having taken the disease in the infected quarter, & going into the country, are nursed & buried by their friends, without an example of communicating it.
From Thomas Jefferson to Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney,  February 8, 1805

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders heed empirical evidence.
Volney (1757-1820) was a French philosopher, author and politician. He met Jefferson  during the latter’s tenure as Ambassador to France. Volney visited America during the 1790s. Jefferson sponsored Volney’s membership in the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s pre-eminent scientific organization. Both shared similar views on government and religion.

In a November 1803 letter to Jefferson, Volney said he nearly died in September from a “cruel illness … the fever…” He was heeding his doctor’s advice to relocate for the winter. Neither this letter nor his previous ones to Jefferson made specific reference to the “yellow fever,” but the President assumed it was the same malady in both countries.

Jefferson continued his theme that evidence pointed to the disease occurring only in dirty, densely populated, waterfront areas. That made it endemic to those areas. Afflicted people taken inland, whether they lived or died, did not give the fever to their care-givers. That meant it was not contagious.

Mr. Jefferson will bring his evidence-based wisdom to your audience.
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I will stay in my lane.

still it is not within my province to decide the question: but as it may be within yours to require the performance of Quarentine or not, I execute a private duty in submitting Doctr. Rush’s letter to your consideration. but on this subject ‘nil mihi rescribas, attamen ipse veni.’
Thomas Jefferson to John Page, August 16, 1804

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Respectful leaders do not usurp another’s authority.
Jefferson concluded his letter to Virginia’s Governor saying any decision to quarantine areas affected by the yellow fever lay with Page. He forwarded Dr. Benjamin Rush’s opinionated letter on the subject  to Page as a “private duty,” not a public one.

“nil mihi rescribas, attamen ipse veni,” means “writing back is pointless. Come yourself!” The translation is given in the footnote to a 1795 Jefferson letter to James Madison. Perhaps he meant that debating the issue by letter was pointless, that he would rather see his old friend and discuss it in person?

Mr. Jefferson would prefer to meet your audience in person!
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NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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